Robert William Service |
This is the tale that was told to me by the man with the crystal eye,
As I smoked my pipe in the camp-fire light, and the Glories swept the sky;
As the Northlights gleamed and curved and streamed, and the bottle of "hooch" was dry.
A man once aimed that my life be shamed, and wrought me a deathly wrong;
I vowed one day I would well repay, but the heft of his hate was strong.
He thonged me East and he thonged me West; he harried me back and forth,
Till I fled in fright from his peerless spite to the bleak, bald-headed North.
And there I lay, and for many a day I hatched plan after plan,
For a golden haul of the wherewithal to crush and to kill my man;
And there I strove, and there I clove through the drift of icy streams;
And there I fought, and there I sought for the pay-streak of my dreams.
So twenty years, with their hopes and fears and smiles and tears and such,
Went by and left me long bereft of hope of the Midas touch;
About as fat as a chancel rat, and lo! despite my will,
In the weary fight I had clean lost sight of the man I sought to kill.
'Twas so far away, that evil day when I prayed to the Prince of Gloom
For the savage strength and the sullen length of life to work his doom.
Nor sign nor word had I seen or heard, and it happed so long ago;
My youth was gone and my memory wan, and I willed it even so.
It fell one night in the waning light by the Yukon's oily flow,
I smoked and sat as I marvelled at the sky's port-winey glow;
Till it paled away to an absinthe gray, and the river seemed to shrink,
All wobbly flakes and wriggling snakes and goblin eyes a-wink.
'Twas weird to see and it 'wildered me in a queer, hypnotic dream,
Till I saw a spot like an inky blot come floating down the stream;
It bobbed and swung; it sheered and hung; it romped round in a ring;
It seemed to play in a tricksome way; it sure was a merry thing.
In freakish flights strange oily lights came fluttering round its head,
Like butterflies of a monster size--then I knew it for the Dead.
Its face was rubbed and slicked and scrubbed as smooth as a shaven pate;
In the silver snakes that the water makes it gleamed like a dinner-plate.
It gurgled near, and clear and clear and large and large it grew;
It stood upright in a ring of light and it looked me through and through.
It weltered round with a woozy sound, and ere I could retreat,
With the witless roll of a sodden soul it wantoned to my feet.
And here I swear by this Cross I wear, I heard that "floater" say:
"I am the man from whom you ran, the man you sought to slay.
That you may note and gaze and gloat, and say `Revenge is sweet',
In the grit and grime of the river's slime I am rotting at your feet.
"The ill we rue we must e'en undo, though it rive us bone from bone;
So it came about that I sought you out, for I prayed I might atone.
I did you wrong, and for long and long I sought where you might live;
And now you're found, though I'm dead and drowned, I beg you to forgive.
So sad it seemed, and its cheek-bones gleamed, and its fingers flicked the shore;
And it lapped and lay in a weary way, and its hands met to implore;
That I gently said: "Poor, restless dead, I would never work you woe;
Though the wrong you rue you can ne'er undo, I forgave you long ago.
Then, wonder-wise, I rubbed my eyes and I woke from a horrid dream.
The moon rode high in the naked sky, and something bobbed in the stream.
It held my sight in a patch of light, and then it sheered from the shore;
It dipped and sank by a hollow bank, and I never saw it more.
This was the tale he told to me, that man so warped and gray,
Ere he slept and dreamed, and the camp-fire gleamed in his eye in a wolfish way--
That crystal eye that raked the sky in the weird Auroral ray.
Langston Hughes |
Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway .
He did a lazy sway .
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Coming from a black man's soul.
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan--
"Ain't got nobody in all this world,
Ain't got nobody but ma self.
I's gwine to quit ma frownin'
And put ma troubles on the shelf.
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more--
"I got the Weary Blues
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied--
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died.
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.
Alfred Austin |
LEAVE me a little while alone,
Here at his grave that still is strown
With crumbling flower and wreath;
The laughing rivulet leaps and falls,
The thrush exults, the cuckoo calls,
And he lies hush’d beneath.
With myrtle cross and crown of rose,
And every lowlier flower that blows,
His new-made couch is dress’d;
Primrose and cowslip, hyacinth wild,
Gather’d by monarch, peasant, child,
A nation’s grief attest.
I stood not with the mournful crowd
That hither came when round his shroud
Pious farewells were said.
In the fam’d city that he sav’d,
By minaret crown’d, by billow lav’d,
I heard that he was dead.
Now o’er his tomb at last I bend,
No greeting get, no greeting tend,
Who never came before
Unto his presence, but I took,
From word or gesture, tone or look,
Some wisdom from his door.
And must I now unanswer’d wait,
And, though a suppliant at the gate,
No sound my ears rejoice?
Listen! Yes, even as I stand,
I feel the pressure of his hand,
The comfort of his voice.
How poor were Fame, did grief confess
That death can make a great life less,
Or end the help it gave!
Our wreaths may fade, our flowers may wane,
But his well-ripen’d deeds remain,
Untouch’d, above his grave.
Let this, too, soothe our widow’d minds;
Silenced are the opprobrious winds
Whene’er the sun goes down;
And free henceforth from noonday noise,
He at a tranquil height enjoys
The starlight of renown.
Thus hence we something more may take
Than sterile grief, than formless ache,
Or vainly utter’d vow;
Death hath bestow’d what life withheld
And he round whom detraction swell’d
Hath peace with honor now.
The open jeer, the covert taunt,
The falsehood coin’d in factious haunt,
These loving gifts reprove.
They never were but thwarted sound
Of ebbing waves that bluster round
A rock that will not move.
And now the idle roar rolls off,
Hush’d is the gibe and sham’d the scoff,
Repress’d the envious gird;
Since death, the looking-glass of life,
Clear’d of the misty breath of strife,
Reflects his face unblurr’d.
From callow youth to mellow age,
Men turn the leaf and scan the page,
And note, with smart of loss,
How wit to wisdom did mature,
How duty burn’d ambition pure,
And purged away the dross.
Youth is self-love; our manhood lends
Its heart to pleasure, mistress, friends,
So that when age steals nigh,
How few find any worthier aim
Than to protract a flickering flame,
Whose oil hath long run dry!
But he, unwitting youth once flown,
With England’s greatness link’d his own,
And, steadfast to that part,
Held praise and blame but fitful sound,
And in the love of country found
Full solace for his heart.
Now in an English grave he lies:
With flowers that tell of English skies
And mind of English air,
A grateful sovereign decks his bed,
And hither long with pilgrim tread
Will English feet repair.
Yet not beside his grave alone
We seek the glance, the touch, the tone;
His home is nigh,—but there,
See from the hearth his figure fled,
The pen unrais’d, the page unread,
Untenanted the chair!
Vainly the beechen boughs have made
A fresh green canopy of shade,
Vainly the peacocks stray;
While Carlo, with despondent gait,
Wonders how long affairs of State
Will keep his lord away.
Here most we miss the guide, the friend;
Back to the churchyard let me wend,
And, by the posied mound,
Lingering where late stood worthier feet,
Wish that some voice, more strong, more sweet,
A loftier dirge would sound.
At least I bring not tardy flowers:
Votive to him life’s budding powers,
Such as they were, I gave—
He not rejecting, so I may
Perhaps these poor faint spices lay,
Unchidden, on his grave!
Galway Kinnell |
He climbed to the top
of one of those million white pines
set out across the emptying pastures
of the fifties - some program to enrich the rich
and rebuke the forefathers
who cleared it all at once with ox and axe -
climbed to the top, probably to get out
of the shadow
not of those forefathers but of this father
and saw for the first time
down in its valley, Bruce Pond, giving off
its little steam in the afternoon,
pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut
the cedars around the shore, I'd sometimes hear the slow
of his work, he's gone,
where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was
stood awhile before I knew he was there, he's the one who
cedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a
blown off, he's gone,
where Gus Newland logged in the cold snap of '58, the only
ing to go into those woods that never got warmer than ten
pond where two wards of the state wandered on Halloween,
tional Guard searched for them in November, in vain, the
next fall a
hunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain,
pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning
worms, when he goes he's replaced and is never gone,
and when Fergus
saw the pond for the first time
in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there
in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly
in his bones
the way fledglings do just before they fly,
and the soft pine cracked .
I would not have heard his cry
if my electric saw had been working,
its carbide teeth speeding through the bland spruce of our
black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank,
like dark circles under eyes
when the brain thinks too close to the skin,
but I was sawing by hand and I heard that cry
as though he were attacked; we ran out,
when we bent over him he said, "Galway, In¨¦s, I saw a
His face went gray, his eyes fluttered close a frightening
Yes - a pond
that lets off its mist
on clear afternoons of August, in that valley
to which many have come, for their reasons,
from which many have gone, a few for their reasons, most
where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see
sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.
Robert William Service |
If she met him or he met her,
I knew that something must occur;
For they were just like flint and steel
To strike the spark of woe and weal;
Or like two splinters broken fine,
In perfect fitness to combine;
And so I ept them well apart,
For she was precious to my heart.
One time we all three met at church
I tried to give the lad the lurch,
But heard him say: "How like a rose!
is it your daughter , I suppose?"
"Why no," said I; "My wife to be,
And sic months gone wi' child is she.
He looked astonished and distraught:
My boy, that's one for you I thought.
The wife asked: "What a handsome lad!
A sailor .
" Somehow she looked sad;
And then his memory grew dim,
For nevermore she mentioned him.
And as I be nigh twice her age
I've always thought it mighty sage,
Lest she might one day go astray,
To keep her in the breeding way.
Oh did she ever dream of Jack?
The boy who nevermore came back,
And never will, I heard that he
Was drowned in the China Sea.
I told her not, lest she be sad,
And me? It's mean, but I was glad;
For if he's come into my life
He would have robbed me of my wife.
But when at night by her I lie,
And in her sleep I hear her sigh,
I have a doubt if I did well
In separating Jack and Nell.
And though we have a brood of seven,
Yet marriage may be made in Heaven:
For Nell has cancer, Doctors state,
So maybe 'tis the way of fate
That in the end them two may mate.
Kahlil Gibran |
My wearied heart bade me farewell and left for the House of Fortune.
As he reached that holy city which the soul had blessed and worshipped, he commenced wondering, for he could not find what he had always imagined would be there.
The city was empty of power, money, and authority.
And my heart spoke to the daughter of Love saying, "Oh Love, where can I find Contentment? I heard that she had come here to join you.
And the daughter of Love responded, "Contentment has already gone to preach her gospel in the city, where greed and corruption are paramount; we are not in need of her.
Fortune craves not Contentment, for it is an earthly hope, and its desires are embraced by union with objects, while Contentment is naught but heartfelt.
The eternal soul is never contented; it ever seeks exaltation.
Then my heart looked upon Life of Beauty and said: "Thou art all knowledge; enlighten me as to the mystery of Woman.
" And he answered, "Oh human heart, woman is your own reflection, and whatever you are, she is; wherever you live, she lives; she is like religion if not interpreted by the ignorant, and like a moon, if not veiled with clouds, and like a breeze, if not poisoned with impurities.
And my heart walked toward Knowledge, the daughter of Love and Beauty, and said, "Bestow upon me wisdom, that I might share it with the people.
" And she responded, "Say not wisdom, but rather fortune, for real fortune comes not from outside, but begins in the Holy of Holies of life.
Share of thyself with the people.
Robert William Service |
At dawn of day the white land lay all gruesome-like and grim,
When Bill Mc'Gee he says to me: "We've got to do it, Jim.
We've got to make Fort Liard quick.
I know the river's bad,
But, oh! the little woman's sick .
why! don't you savvy, lad?"
And me! Well, yes, I must confess it wasn't hard to see
Their little family group of two would soon be one of three.
And so I answered, careless-like: "Why, Bill! you don't suppose
I'm scared of that there `babbling brook'? Whatever you say -- goes.
A real live man was Barb-wire Bill, with insides copper-lined;
For "barb-wire" was the brand of "hooch" to which he most inclined.
They knew him far; his igloos are on Kittiegazuit strand.
They knew him well, the tribes who dwell within the Barren Land.
From Koyokuk to Kuskoquim his fame was everywhere;
And he did love, all life above, that little Julie Claire,
The lithe, white slave-girl he had bought for seven hundred skins,
And taken to his wickiup to make his moccasins.
We crawled down to the river bank and feeble folk were we,
That Julie Claire from God-knows-where, and Barb-wire Bill and me.
From shore to shore we heard the roar the heaving ice-floes make,
And loud we laughed, and launched our raft, and followed in their wake.
The river swept and seethed and leapt, and caught us in its stride;
And on we hurled amid a world that crashed on every side.
With sullen din the banks caved in; the shore-ice lanced the stream;
The naked floes like spooks arose, all jiggling and agleam.
Black anchor-ice of strange device shot upward from its bed,
As night and day we cleft our way, and arrow-like we sped.
But "Faster still!" cried Barb-wire Bill, and looked the live-long day
In dull despair at Julie Claire, as white like death she lay.
And sometimes he would seem to pray and sometimes seem to curse,
And bent above, with eyes of love, yet ever she grew worse.
And as we plunged and leapt and lunged, her face was plucked with pain,
And I could feel his nerves of steel a-quiver at the strain.
And in the night he gripped me tight as I lay fast asleep:
"The river's kicking like a steer .
run out the forward sweep!
That's Hell-gate Canyon right ahead; I know of old its roar,
I'll be damned! the ice is jammed! We've GOT to make the shore.
With one wild leap I gripped the sweep.
The night was black as sin.
The float-ice crashed and ripped and smashed, and stunned us with its din.
And near and near, and clear and clear I heard the canyon boom;
And swift and strong we swept along to meet our awful doom.
And as with dread I glimpsed ahead the death that waited there,
My only thought was of the girl, the little Julie Claire;
And so, like demon mad with fear, I panted at the oar,
And foot by foot, and inch by inch, we worked the raft ashore.
The bank was staked with grinding ice, and as we scraped and crashed,
I only knew one thing to do, and through my mind it flashed:
Yet while I groped to find the rope, I heard Bill's savage cry:
"That's my job, lad! It's me that jumps.
I'll snub this raft or die!"
I saw him leap, I saw him creep, I saw him gain the land;
I saw him crawl, I saw him fall, then run with rope in hand.
And then the darkness gulped him up, and down we dashed once more,
And nearer, nearer drew the jam, and thunder-like its roar.
Oh God! all's lost .
from Julie Claire there came a wail of pain,
And then -- the rope grew sudden taut, and quivered at the strain;
It slacked and slipped, it whined and gripped, and oh, I held my breath!
And there we hung and there we swung right in the jaws of death.
A little strand of hempen rope, and how I watched it there,
With all around a hell of sound, and darkness and despair;
A little strand of hempen rope, I watched it all alone,
And somewhere in the dark behind I heard a woman moan;
And somewhere in the dark ahead I heard a man cry out,
Then silence, silence, silence fell, and mocked my hollow shout.
And yet once more from out the shore I heard that cry of pain,
A moan of mortal agony, then all was still again.
That night was hell with all the frills, and when the dawn broke dim,
I saw a lean and level land, but never sign of him.
I saw a flat and frozen shore of hideous device,
I saw a long-drawn strand of rope that vanished through the ice.
And on that treeless, rockless shore I found my partner -- dead.
No place was there to snub the raft, so -- he had served instead;
And with the rope lashed round his waist, in last defiant fight,
He'd thrown himself beneath the ice, that closed and gripped him tight;
And there he'd held us back from death, as fast in death he lay.
Say, boys! I'm not the pious brand, but -- I just tried to pray.
And then I looked to Julie Claire, and sore abashed was I,
For from the robes that covered her, I - heard - a - baby - cry.
Thus was Love conqueror of death, and life for life was given;
And though no saint on earth, d'ye think -- Bill's squared hisself with Heaven?
Walt Whitman |
I HEARD that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle, the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy;
Therefore I send you my poems, that you behold in them what you wanted.
Thomas Hardy |
Forty years back, when much had place
That since has perished out of mind,
I heard that voice and saw that face.
He spoke as one afoot will wind
A morning horn ere men awake;
His note was trenchant, turning kind.
He was one of those whose wit can shake
And riddle to the very core
The counterfiets that Time will break.
Of late, when we two met once more,
The luminous countenance and rare
Shone just as forty years before.
So that, when now all tongues declare
His shape unseen by his green hill,
I scarce believe he sits not there.
Further and further still
Through the world's vaprous vitiate air
His words wing on--as live words will.
Robert William Service |
I bought a cuckoo clock
And glad was I
To hear its tick and tock,
Its dulcet cry.
But Jones, whose wife is young
And pretty too,
Winced when that bird gave tongue:
I have a lady friend
Whom I would wed,
For dalliance should end
In bridal bed.
Until the thought occurred:
Can she be true?
And then I heard that bird:
Though ignorance is bliss
And love be blind,
Faithless may be the kiss
So now sweet echoes mock
My wish to woo:
Confound that cursed clock!